Bernie Grant Leadership programme graduates write to Starmer and Rayner

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The Bernie Grant Leadership Programme was established to address the under-representation of BAME members as elected Labour politicians, both locally and nationally. It was named in memory of the late Tottenham MP and Haringey council leader, who worked hard to encourage a new generation of BAME Labour politicians.

The programme’s first focus was to support members seeking selection as Labour candidates and empower members to take other leadership positions within the wider movement and community. Dawn Butler MP as Shadow Minister for Equalities has played a central role.

The inaugural Bernie Grant Leadership Programme took place in 2019, with fifty students from all over the UK chosen from hundreds of applicants. We republish here a letter from 2019 alumni to the new Labour leadership. 

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner,

We are a group of graduates from last year’s inaugural Bernie Grant Leadership programme. The programme was set up to nurture the next generation of BAME leaders in the Labour Party but the treatment of senior black MPs in the party has caused us grave concern.

The Labour movement commemorated the 20th anniversary of ground-breaking Bernie Grant MP’s death just a few weeks ago but many of us fear the progress the election of Bernie, Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz represented in 1987 has since stalled.

While the last election saw the addition of several great new BAME MPs, many BAME members report on a disturbing culture of patronage, side-lining and gaslighting. Many BAME activists, attracted to the party because of its stronger anti-racism stance and more transformative policies over the last few years, look up to leaders like Diane Abbott MP and Dawn Butler MP as role models and so the alleged ill-treatment of them by senior Labour figures is extremely upsetting.

The claim that senior Labour figures revelled in the distress of Diane Abbott MP, who was receiving a vile influx of racist death and rape threats, is frankly stomach-turning and the comments about Dawn Butler MP and Clive Lewis MP are also very upsetting.

Dawn Butler MP launched the Bernie Grant Leadership programme last year and we all had the pleasure of spending two inspiring weekends learning from Dawn and other experts. We were disappointed to see her, the most experienced candidate for Deputy Leader, come last in the ballot but we were dismayed to see her then exit the Shadow Cabinet despite her excellent track record and impressive media performances.

Clive, Dawn and other BAME MPs campaigns for leadership positions raise worrying questions about who gets institutional and financial support within the party.

We call on these allegations and the wider treatment of BAME members in the party to be investigated as a matter of urgency, and for the immediate suspension of those facing allegations of racism, sexism and bullying. We need to know that the types of racist bullying alleged in the report and described by other members have no place in our party or our movement.

We endorse the party’s efforts to tackle the evil of antisemitism and support the concept that marginalised communities should be at the forefront when it comes to both describing the discrimination they face and in setting out the ways to remove it from the party. We ask that all forms of racism such as Islamophobia and Gypsie Romany & Traveller discrimination within the party be treated as seriously. There should be a zero-tolerance approach with those accused being suspended while the allegations are investigated.

The investigation needs not only to look at the past allegations but also needs to provide assurances that this sort of behaviour does not and cannot exist in the current party hierarchy.  Furthermore, the investigation must also look at the treatment of more junior Labour staff as we hear worrying reports from the party’s current BAME staff.

Incidents of racism, sexism or other discrimination are often hard to prove. When wrongdoing is concealed behind closed doors, whistleblowers are vital. The person who leaked this report should be treated as a whistleblower and protected by the law. This means they should not be treated unfairly, victimised or lose their jobs.

We are concerned by efforts to stop debates on this important issue. We, therefore, call on the party to officially publish the report, with legally required redactions, so that this debate can be had in the open.

We also ask for the report to be sent to the EHRC as originally planned, and allowed to be included in the investigation of antisemitism within the party. By doing so, this will help us understand how endemic discrimination is within the party, and identify key areas which need to be urgently addressed.

The last election showed that Britain’s inner cities are now Labour’s most loyal heartlands. If the Labour Party is to provide the answers that Britain needs in the coming years, it needs to be built on a coalition of working people and BAME members are a vital part of this coalition.

The Labour Party has a lot of work to do to win back the trust of BAME members and BAME communities, a thorough investigation into these allegations will be an important step in this journey.

Yours sincerely,

Mustapha Maohoub, Treasure & BAME Officer – Cynon Valley CLP
Mish Rahman, Chair – Aldridge Brownhills CLP
Johnbosco Nwogbo, East Worthing & Shoreham CLP
Darran McLaughlin, Co-Secretary and Council Candidate – Bristol West CLP
Omide Deinali, BAME Officer – Easington CLP
Enas Magzoub, Chair – Scottish Young Labour
Beverley Thomas, Treasurer – Graves Park Branch, Heeley CLP
Raj Prashar, BAME Officer – Exeter CLP & Branch Chair – S.Exe Branch
Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Oxford East CLP
Serena Johnson, Huddersfield CLP
Aghileh DjafarI-Marbini, Harrow west CLP
Alex Charlton, BAME Officer – SW Hertfordshire CLP
Jabu Nala-Hartley, Chairperson of the Oxford Living Wage, Council Candidate for Oxford Barton and Sandhills – Oxford CLP
Andrea Hayes, Community Liaison Officer – Watford CLP,
Neal Tank, Ealing Central and Acton CLP
Cllr Maya Evans, Hastings & Rye CLP
Khosrow Zanganeh, Maryhill and Springburn CLP
Marianne Kimani, BAME Officer – Northampton North CLP
Cllr Shelly Darwin, Eastern NPF rep – Ipswich CLP
Cllr Maurice Mcleod, Tooting CLP
Olalekan Odedeyi, Political Education Officer – Tees Valley Labour BAME Forum
Cllr Belgica Guana, Newham CLP
Wesley Goode, Ealing Southall CLP
Dr Sonia Adesara, Tottenham CLP
Carl Brown, Campaign Coordinator & BAME Officer – Walsall North CLP
Martin Gallagher, Alyn & Deeside/Buckley CLP

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